Saturday, October 31, 2015
At one point during Wednesday’s Republican debate, Ben Carson was asked about his involvement with Mannatech, a nutritional supplements company that makes outlandish claims about its products and has been forced to pay $7 million to settle a deceptive-practices lawsuit. The audience booed, and Mr. Carson denied being involved with the company. Both reactions tell you a lot about the driving forces behind modern American politics.
As it happens, Mr. Carson lied. He has indeed been deeply involved with Mannatech, and has done a lot to help promote its merchandise. PolitiFact quickly rated his claim false, without qualification. But the Republican base doesn’t want to hear about it, and the candidate apparently believes, probably correctly, that he can simply brazen it out. These days, in his party, being an obvious grifter isn’t a liability, and may even be an asset.
WASHINGTON, DC – A major shift in American politics has taken place. All three of the remaining mainstream Democratic presidential candidates now agree that the existing state of the financial sector is not satisfactory and that more change is needed. President Barack Obama has long regarded the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-reform legislation as bringing about sufficient change. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Governor Martin O’Malley want to do even more.
The three leading Democratic candidates disagree, however, on whether there should be legislation to re-erect a wall between the rather dull business of ordinary commercial banking and other kinds of finance (such as issuing and trading securities, commonly known as investment banking).
Posted by Dictynna at 3:35 PM
Elizabeth Warren eviscerates Paul Ryan’s breathtakingly bad budgets, nails roots of GOP’s dysfunction
Paul Ryan is the new Speaker of the House and Elizabeth Warren is none too impressedSophia Tesfaye
Paul Ryan was just elected the 62nd Speaker of the House to succeed John Boehner and attempt the impossible task of herding cats, beginning with his House GOP conference. Ryan, who for years has been lauded as the smartest man in Washington, D.C. by a fawning beltway press, was deemed palatable enough for the hardcore right-wing extremist in his caucus to save House Republicans from themselves, but Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is not impressed.
Speaking at a Politico event on Wednesday, Warren admitted that she has had limited interactions with Ryan on the Hill but said that she’s learned all she needs to know about his leadership abilities and priorities as the next Speaker by reading his budget proposals, which Warren called “truly breathtaking.”
Posted by Dictynna at 3:23 PM
In an age of shrinking newspaper budgets, it’s common for editors to rely on freelance writers–and for freelancers to add to their incomes with side projects. But is it a conflict of interest for a columnist who covers food and agriculture to take money from agrichemical industry interest groups?
Posted by Dictynna at 3:15 PM
Sometimes I find myself feeling sorry for Mitt Romney. No, seriously. In another time and place, he might have been respected as an effective technocrat — a smart guy valued (although probably not loved) for his ability to get things done. In fact, that’s kind of how it worked when he was governor of Massachusetts, a decade ago.
But now it’s 2015 in America, and Mr. Romney’s party doesn’t want people who get things done. On the contrary, it actively hates government programs that improve American lives, especially if they help Those People. And this means that Mr. Romney can’t celebrate his signature achievement in public life, the Massachusetts health reform that served as a template for Obamacare.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:09 PM
We have a rare opportunity to redefine socialism for a new generation. That’s more important than who wins the 2016 election.by Danny Katch
The other week in Las Vegas, Democratic presidential candidates showed up for a series of soundbites, and an honest to goodness political debate broke out — for a few minutes at least.
Don’t blame Anderson Cooper. The CNN moderator was merely trying to redbait Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders when he asked if “any kind of socialist could win a general election in the United States.” But rather than shrinking at the dreaded “s” word, Sanders gave an unapologetic defense of Scandinavian health care and maternity leave policies.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:01 PM
The senator is fighting back against special perks that can encourage financial advisers to push clients into bad investments.Zach Carter
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took a swipe at Wall Street Tuesday, detailing a host of vacations, cruises and other perks that retirement professionals commonly receive for steering clients into particular investments. The rewards provide investment experts with plush incentives to shortchange retirees for their own personal benefit.
Warren's description of the perks, outlined in a report issued by her office, serves as a fresh defense of a retirement security rule proposed by the Obama administration, which would prohibit such activity. Americans collectively lose about $17 billion dollars a year to conflicted retirement account advice, according to the administration.
Posted by Dictynna at 2:30 PM
Posted by Dictynna at 2:21 PM
This declassified US intelligence report from 1990 is one of the most terrifying things you'll ever readBy Armin Rosen
The 1983 US-Soviet "war scare" is one of the most controversial episodes of the Cold War.
Now we finally know it was also one of the most dangerous, thanks to a February 1990 report published by the National Security Archive at George Washington University this week after a 12-year Freedom of Information Act battle.
The US and Soviets were dangerously close to going to war in November 1983, the bombshell report found, and the Cold War-era US national-security apparatus missed many warning signs.
Posted by Dictynna at 1:51 PM
Politics isn't about who you love. It's about who you fear.
That's the upshot of a paper by political scientists Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster that attempts to untangle a mystery about modern American politics: how can there be record levels of party loyalty and straight-ticket voting at the same time that fewer Americans than ever before are identifying as Republicans and Democrats?
Posted by Dictynna at 1:41 PM
Just now, the Senate voted to pass the Cyber Information Sharing Act by a vote of 74 to 21. While 7 more people voted against the bill than had voted against cloture last week (Update: the new votes were Cardin and Tester, Crapo, Daines, Heller, Lee, Risch, and Sullivan, with Paul not voting), this is still a resounding vote for a bill that will authorize domestic spying with no court review in this country.
The amendment voting process was interesting of its own accord. Most appallingly, just after Patrick Leahy cast his 15,000th vote on another amendment — which led to a break to talk about what a wonderful person he is, as well as a speech from him about how the Senate is the conscience of the country — Leahy’s colleagues voted 57 to 39 against his amendment that would have stopped the creation of a new FOIA exemption for CISA. So right after honoring Leahy, his colleagues kicked one of his key issues, FOIA, in the ass.
Posted by Dictynna at 1:28 PM
Last Thursday, the nation watched with a mix of amusement and horror as the House Benghazi committee spent 11 hours grilling Hillary Clinton on a bizarre farrago of issues, many of which bore only tangential connection to the Benghazi attack.
The thing is: The Benghazi committee is not even the worst committee in the House. I'd argue that the House science committee, under the chairmanship of Lamar Smith (R-TX), deserves that superlative for its open-ended, Orwellian attempts to intimidate some of the nation's leading scientists and scientific institutions.
Posted by Dictynna at 1:22 PM
Latinos hardest hitWashington State University
PULLMAN, Wash. - New research finds that economically disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods of non-English speaking Latinos are more likely to be exposed to cancer-causing air toxics than comparable communities of any other racial group in the United States.
The work, to be published in the November edition of Social Science Research, was done by Washington State University assistant professor of sociology Raoul Liévanos, who married maps of toxic air pollution hotspots with demographic clusters across the United States.
Posted by Dictynna at 12:57 PM
In a landmark public health finding, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health finds that carbon dioxide (CO2) has a direct and negative impact on human cognition and decision-making. These impacts have been observed at CO2 levels that most Americans — and their children — are routinely exposed to today inside classrooms, offices, homes, planes, and cars.
Carbon dioxide levels are inevitably higher indoors than the baseline set by the outdoor air used for ventilation, a baseline that is rising at an accelerating rate thanks to human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels. So this seminal research has equally great importance for climate policy, providing an entirely new public health impetus for keeping global CO2 levels as low as possible.
Posted by Dictynna at 12:37 PM
October marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law at a public ceremony held at the base of the Statute of Liberty. The act is rightly celebrated for dismantling the infamous "national origins" quota system that gave special preference to immigrants from Western Europe while effectively barring newcomers from Asia and severely curtailing immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. While the egalitarian ethos of the 1965 law is often hailed as a civil rights victory, its legacy is far more complex.
Whether intentional or not, the law spurred a major shift in the demographic character of the immigrant population over the past half-century. The sweeping changes ushered forth by the law were set into motion by shifting Cold War geopolitical configurations. The United States emerged from World War II as the uncontested leader of the "free world" and locked in a global rivalry with the Soviet Union and China for the hearts and minds of the world's population.
Posted by Dictynna at 11:56 AM
Special interest money is flooding into our state Supreme Court elections, gravely threatening the impartial justice that our Constitution promises -- and raising troubling questions about whether courtroom decisions are for sale.
This fast-growing trend in American politics, spurred in part by the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling in 2010, puts our system of justice at risk. When judges are pressured to answer to deep-pocketed special interests, disillusioned citizens may perceive them as little more than politicians in robes.
Posted by Dictynna at 11:36 AM
Foreign policy never really changes regardless of who holds the White House. This is why exceptionalism always winsPatrick L. Smith
There are two ways to consider the White House’s announcement last week that, no, American troops will no longer withdraw from Afghanistan as previously planned. You can look back over President Obama’s record in such matters or you can face forward and think about what this decision means, or implies, or suggests —or maybe all three—about the next president’s conduct of foreign policy.
I do not like what I see in either direction. What anyone who looks carefully and consciously can discern in Obama’s seven years in office are limits. These are imposed in part by inherited circumstances, but let us set these aside for now, appalling as they are. My concern is with the limits imposed by the entrenched power of our permanent government, otherwise known as the “deep state.”
Posted by Dictynna at 11:03 AM
One of the common complaints heard about the U.S. financial regulatory system is that it’s so fragmented that one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. For example, both the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (Fed) regulate the largest banks – including the biggest banks on Wall Street. But neither of these regulators has any clarity on the securities trading risks that these banks holding trillions in insured deposits are taking. Neither does the FDIC that insures the deposits with backstopping from the taxpayer. That’s the Securities and Exchange Commission’s job. The same banks are also taking big risks in commodities and futures trading – but that’s left to the oversight of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). And on and on it goes.
Posted by Dictynna at 10:53 AM
Some of the information they were seeking is both bizarre and possibly dangerous for Planned Parenthood employees.By Jen Hayden / Daily Kos
The unbelievable harassment of the largest healthcare provider for American women has been taken to a new low in Texas:
Texas sent agents to Planned Parenthood facilities on Thursday seeking documents, the group said, calling it a "politically motivated" move that comes on the heels of the state's Republican leaders barring it from receiving Medicaid money.
Members of the Texas Office of the Inspector General made unannounced visits at Planned Parenthood health centers in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, staying in some cases for several hours and giving Planned Parenthood 24 hours to deliver thousands of pages of documents stored at its facilities across the state, the organization said.
Posted by Dictynna at 10:47 AM
"When you make a risky investment you should not expect to get 100 percent back on your dollar."Zach Carter
WASHINGTON -- Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called on the federal government Thursday to curb the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico by cracking down on vulture fund investors.
"Wall Street should not be believing that they can get blood from a stone," Sanders said. "When people are suffering and hurting, you cannot continue to squeeze them."
Posted by Dictynna at 10:32 AM
The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens
By Gabriel Zucman
University of Chicago Press, $20 (cloth)
The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens
By Gabriel Zucman
University of Chicago Press, $20 (cloth)
Two new books link rising inequality to unseen forces: tax havens in economist Gabriel Zucman’s case, and overseas labor and environmental exploitation in historian Erik Loomis’s. The adverse consequences of the free movement of capital suffuse both narratives. Loomis recognizes that the threat of offshored jobs and outsourced supply chains is wielded to discipline the domestic workforce in the United States, and Zucman points out that tax havens have effectively allowed the wealthy to choose their own tax system and regulatory regime. They each question received wisdom and ideologically charged models in which “globalization” is an inexorable force innocent of politics or power, which operates to either universal benefit or at worst whose ill effects can be compensated. In fact, thanks to globalization, the economic body—what its ideological affiliates call “The Market”—is able to transcend the national body politic, to the benefit of multinational corporations and the wealthy individuals who own them.
Posted by Dictynna at 10:03 AM
Sanders Hires Cesar Vargas, High-Profile DREAMer Activist, For Latino Outreach - See more at: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2015/10/cesar-vargas-in-2012-immigrant-from.htmlby Gaius Publius
In another smart move, Bernie Sanders has hired Cesar Vargas, one of the highest-profile and best-respected DREAM activists, to engage with him in Latino outreach.
It's clear that whoever the Democratic nominee is, that person will have to win the Latino vote. It's also clear that the way the Republican party is performing on immigration, the Democratic nominee will do quite well in the general election.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:55 AM
Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald Calls Out Media For Enabling The Benghazi Committee's Partisan "Political Theater"Alex Kaplan
Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald called out the media for promoting the misleading and "deceitful information" released by the House Select Committee on Benghazi in an ongoing effort to hurt Hillary Clinton's poll numbers, as it is becoming "increasingly clear they are enablers of an obscene attempt to undermine the electoral process."
In his October 21 "Benghazi Biopsy," Eichenwald describes the Benghazi Committee as a "taxpayer-funded political research of the opposing party's leading candidate for president." He goes on to criticize the media for parroting the committee's numerous false claims, from misleading characterizations of Susan Rice's supposedly deceptive Sunday morning show talking points, to the persistent "stand down" order myth, to the incorrect assertion that Clinton personally signed off on a cable weakening the security at the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:46 AM
John Adams once wrote, “It was never pretended that any persons employed in [drafting the founding documents] had interviews with the gods or were in any degree under the inspiration of heaven.” Ours was a government “founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretense of miracle or mystery.”
That Adams had to disavow divine inspiration always surprised me before I taught in Utah in the 1980s. Evangelical Christians and Mormons are often at odds, but at some point they united in the belief that the Founders had acted as scribes for divine revelation. Some of my students thought angels bearing the word of God had been at the Constitutional Convention. I began inserting into my lectures reasons why this probably was not true. Why the disputes over what passages meant? Why the amendments? Had God—or the angels—forgotten stuff?
Posted by Dictynna at 9:18 AM
Friday, October 23, 2015
How can the reproductive rights movement start to win again?
“Start” is the operative word. We’re getting crushed out there. Since 2010, 283 abortion restrictions have been passed in the United States. Women’s access to contraception is under attack, not just from religious employers, now empowered by the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, but also in some state legislatures. Abstinence-only sex education continues to receive millions in government funding, even though studies show it doesn’t work. Women who have stillbirths or miscarriages are being arrested for their conduct during pregnancy. As one repro-rights activist wrote on a listserv recently, it’s not even a question of David versus Goliath anymore. It’s David versus the Empire State Building.
Posted by Dictynna at 12:28 PM
Dick Cheney’s book explains his ‘exceptional’ vision for America: War, torture and mass surveillanceJoe Wilson and Valerie Plame, The Washington Spectator
Exceptional, the new book from former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz, is not. It is nothing more than an unhinged rant that smacks of sedition.
“The children need to know the truth about who we are, what we’ve done, and why it is uniquely America’s duty to be freedom’s defender,” the prologue proclaims. The book, however, is not about who we are but who Cheney wants us to become. It is a call for Americans to reject constitutional government and those values that have guided our nation for 227 years and replace it with imperial rule in the name of “freedom”––even when that rule includes wars of choice, intrusive violations of our privacy and civil liberties, and of course, an aggressive regime of torture.
Posted by Dictynna at 12:18 PM
Presidential candidate outlines his plan to make public colleges and universities tuition-free on campaign trail and in a new op-edby Deirdre Fulton, staff writer
"It is time to build on the progressive movement of the past and make public colleges and universities tuition-free in the United States," presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wrote in an op-ed on Thursday, saying such a move would "be the driver of a new era of American prosperity."
"In my view, education is essential for personal and national well-being," Sanders declared, elaborating on a key aspect of his populist platform. "We live in a highly competitive, global economy, and if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. We won’t achieve that if, every year, hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college while millions more leave school deeply in debt."
Posted by Dictynna at 11:50 AM
Before Democratic Party presidential candidates readied for their first debate on CNN, they turned down an opportunity to meet at another forum.
That meeting was to be hosted by ex-CNN anchorwoman Campbell Brown who now operates a media outlet, The Seventy Four, that promotes charter schools and other public education policies favored by wealthy foundations and individuals. Brown’s financial backers include the philanthropic organization of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the foundation of the family that owns Wal-Mart.
Posted by Dictynna at 11:46 AM
Exclusive: For skilled intelligence operatives, the Internet can be a devil’s playground, a place to circulate doctored photos, audio and documents, making investigations based on “social media” and such sources particularly risky, a point worth recalling in the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, says Robert Parry.By Robert Parry
The first thing any thinking person learns about the Internet is not to trust everything you see there. While you can find much well-researched and reliable material, you’ll also encounter disinformation, spoofs, doctored photographs and crazy conspiracy theories. That would seem to be a basic rule of the Web – caveat emptor and be careful what you do with the information – unless you’re following a preferred neocon narrative. Then, nothing to worry about.
Posted by Dictynna at 11:41 AM
They're much less crazy than payday-lending services, and the rest of the world agrees.Joe Pinsker
In an interview with Fusion’s Felix Salmon the day after last week’s Democratic debate and published Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders discussed the marquee features of democratic socialism he’s been tirelessly calling for during his presidential campaign: higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans, an increased minimum wage, and breaking up the biggest Wall Street banks.
Salmon also raised a possibility that has not been as prominent in Sanders’s stump speeches, but animates him nonetheless: turning the U.S.’s post offices into banks.
Posted by Dictynna at 10:34 AM
Exclusive: Guardian lawsuit exposes fullest scale yet of detentions at off-the-books interrogation warehouse, while attorneys describe find-your-client chase across Chicago as ‘something from a Bond movie’Spencer Ackerman
Police “disappeared” more than 7,000 people at an off-the-books interrogation warehouse in Chicago, nearly twice as many detentions as previously disclosed, the Guardian can now reveal.
From August 2004 to June 2015, nearly 6,000 of those held at the facility were black, which represents more than twice the proportion of the city’s population. But only 68 of those held were allowed access to attorneys or a public notice of their whereabouts, internal police records show.
Posted by Dictynna at 10:20 AM
Tel Aviv University researchers discover chemical found in most sunscreen lotions poses an existential threat to young coralsAmerican Friends of Tel Aviv University
The daily use of sunscreen bearing an SPF of 15 or higher is widely acknowledged as essential to skin cancer prevention, not to mention skin damage associated with aging. Though this sunscreen may be very good for us, it may be very bad for the environment, a new Tel Aviv University study finds.
New research published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology finds that a common chemical in sunscreen lotions and other cosmetic products poses an existential threat -- even in miniscule concentrations -- to the planet's corals and coral reefs. "The chemical, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), is found in more than 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide. It pollutes coral reefs via swimmers who wear sunscreen or wastewater discharges from municipal sewage outfalls and coastal septic systems," said Dr. Omri Bronstein of TAU's Department of Zoology, one of the principal researchers.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:56 AM
What does this mean for education?By Jan Resseger / janresseger
Public schools are among the primary institutions that serve the families in the 99 Percent. As primarily middle class institutions, they are coming under attack from the One Percent, the plutocrats—both Republican and Democrats—who control the levers of power.
In a piece earlier this week the NY Times profiled 158 families across the country who have provided nearly half of all the early money that has been underwriting the campaigns of the candidates currently vying for the 2016 Presidential nominations. The reporters quote the political analyst and demographic expert Ruy Teixeira: “The campaign finance system is now a countervailing force to the way the actual voters of the country are evolving and the policies they want.”
Posted by Dictynna at 9:48 AM
No doubt surprising many of the people watching the Democratic presidential debate, Bernie Sanders cited Denmark as a role model for how to help working people. Hillary Clinton demurred slightly, declaring that “we are not Denmark,” but agreed that Denmark is an inspiring example.
Such an exchange would have been inconceivable among Republicans, who don’t seem able to talk about European welfare states without adding the word “collapsing.” Basically, on Planet G.O.P. all of Europe is just a bigger version of Greece. But how great are the Danes, really?
Posted by Dictynna at 9:42 AM
There was no good answer when John Kerry asked how you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake. Here's whyDavid Milne
Détente with the Soviet Union and the opening to China were significant breakthroughs in their own right. Indeed, a positive appraisal of the Nixon administration’s foreign policies is predicated on our viewing them this way. But Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger did not view them in isolation at the time. Instead, both men believed that Moscow and Beijing, keen to extract economic and strategic benefits from an improved relationship with Washington, would apply pressure on Hanoi to agree to peace terms permitting a full American withdrawal. On this topic their reasoning was misguided. It did not accord sufficient respect to North Vietnam’s fiercely guarded status as an independent actor, or indeed to the ideological solidarity that existed on at least a bilateral basis between Hanoi and its two Marxist-Leninist patrons.
So when the United States withdrew from Vietnam in January 1973, when “peace” was finally achieved, it came at a horrendous cost. Cambodia was dragged directly into the fray, leading ultimately to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and a genocide that killed approximately 1.7 million people— 20.1 percent of Cambodia’s population. Hundreds of thousands of North and South Vietnamese soldiers and noncombatants lost their lives. Of the fifty-seven thousand American soldiers who died on or above Vietnamese soil, twenty thousand perished during Nixon’s presidency. During the 1968 presidential campaign, Nixon had stated his intention to achieve “peace with honor.” In 1971, a returning veteran named John Kerry testified powerfully before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He indicted the war as “the biggest nothing in history” and posed a powerful question: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
Posted by Dictynna at 9:38 AM
For 13 years, Fox News presented Wayne Simmons as a CIA officer. He's now indicted as a fraud. Let's recap his lies.By Ben Norton / Salon
Surprise: One of Fox News’ most popular so-called “terror analysts” was actually a con man.
Con artist Wayne Simmons created an elaborate life story. It is fake. He identified as a CIA outside paramilitary special operations officer. He wasn’t. He wrote a book claiming he worked in the CIA for 27 years. He didn’t.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:28 AM
The CBS report at the heart of a new film might have been false. But the underlying question about his service remains.By Paul Rosenberg / Salon
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein weren’t just journalistic heroes in the normal sense. Their work on Watergate redefined the journalistic world they inhabited, making them more like heroes in the classic mythical sense. Everyone wanted to be the next Woodward and Bernstein.
That stature was underscored by the stars who brought them to the screen — Robert Redford as Woodward, Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. Four decades later, Redford has returned, in a sense to close out that era (a la his earlier role in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid“). Redford plays Dan Rather in a new film, “Truth,” about the Sept. 8, 2004 “60 Minutes II” report on George W. Bush’s dodgy record in the Texas Air National Guard, which effectively ended Rather’s career at CBS, after he and producer Mary Mapes were unable to prove the authenticity of six memos which played a central role in their report.
Posted by Dictynna at 9:08 AM
Together, Charles and David Koch control one of the world's largest fortunes, which they are using to buy up our political system. But what they don't want you to know is how they made all that moneyBy Tim Dickinson | September 24, 2014
The enormity of the Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they've cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today's GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.
What is less clear is where all that money comes from. Koch Industries is headquartered in a squat, smoked-glass building that rises above the prairie on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas. The building, like the brothers' fiercely private firm, is literally and figuratively a black box. Koch touts only one top-line financial figure: $115 billion in annual revenue, as estimated by Forbes. By that metric, it is larger than IBM, Honda or Hewlett-Packard and is America's second-largest private company after agribusiness colossus Cargill. The company's stock response to inquiries from reporters: "We are privately held and don't disclose this information."
Posted by Dictynna at 8:58 AM
For what it’s worth, Mrs. Clinton had the better case. Mr. Sanders has been focused on restoring Glass-Steagall, the rule that separated deposit-taking banks from riskier wheeling and dealing. And repealing Glass-Steagall was indeed a mistake. But it’s not what caused the financial crisis, which arose instead from “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers, which don’t take deposits but can nonetheless wreak havoc when they fail. Mrs. Clinton has laid out a plan to rein in shadow banks; so far, Mr. Sanders hasn’t.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:43 AM
The Malloy Administration’s stunning attack on unions, professors and the future of Connecticut State UniversityJonathan Pelto
In a stark reminder that action speaks louder than words, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration has dropped a stunningly anti-union, anti-faculty, anti-Connecticut State University proposal on the table as it begins its contract negotiations with the CSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the union that represents faculty and a variety of education professionals at the four universities of CSU.
This development comes on top of the news that Malloy’s political appointees on the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees have authorized a contract with an extremely controversial, high profile, anti-union, Governor Chris Christie affiliated New Jersey law firm to lead the negotiations against the UConn Chapter of the AAUP. That contract could cost taxpayers and students as much as $500,000 or more.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:39 AM
Last week's release by Wikileaks of what is believed to be the current and essentially final version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) confirms our worst fears about the agreement, and dashes the few hopes that we held out that its most onerous provisions wouldn't survive to the end of the negotiations.
Since we now have the agreed text, we'll be including some paragraph references that you can cross-reference for yourself - but be aware that some of them contain placeholders like "x" that may change in the cleaned-up text. Also, our analysis here is limited to the copyright and Internet-related provisions of the chapter, but analyses of the impacts of other parts of the chapter have been published by Wikileaks and others.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:33 AM
How will the chaos that the crazies, I mean the Freedom Caucus, have wrought in the House get resolved? I have no idea. But as this column went to press, practically the whole Republican establishment was pleading with Paul Ryan, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to become speaker. He is, everyone says, the only man who can save the day.
What makes Mr. Ryan so special? The answer, basically, is that he’s the best con man they’ve got. His success in hoodwinking the news media and self-proclaimed centrists in general is the basis of his stature within his party. Unfortunately, at least from his point of view, it would be hard to sustain the con game from the speaker’s chair.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:30 AM
…We Just Don’t Act Like It.Jesse A. Myerson
1. The Old System
Fifty miles southwest of Dallas, in the small agricultural community of Cleburne, a group of Texas farmers assembled in August of 1886 to demand the Next System.
The current “crop lien” system was intolerable: a farmer could only get a harvest-time cotton gin or any other necessary equipment from one person: the local merchant. A white farmer would call him “the furnishing man,” a black farmer simply “the Man.” Not having lots of cash handy, the farmer would take out a mortgage (“lien”) on his forthcoming crop. Since the merchant had a monopoly on credit in the area, he could make loans at whatever interest rate suited him—perhaps 25 percent. Many was the farmer who left a merchant’s counter praying to high heaven his crop would command a good enough price at market to service his debt to the Man.
Year in and year out, heaven declined to heed farmers’ prayers: the price the harvest commanded dropped and dropped and dropped. This deflation (general drop in prices) was a result of the gold standard to which the value of money was pegged: while the size of the population rapidly expanded, the size of the money supply remained steady. This grew the farmer’s debt in more than one way: not only did the lousy income force him to borrow more at higher interest the next year, but deflation also magnified the real cost of the previous year’s loan, which now had to be paid back in dollars that were harder to come by. Every dollar the merchant got back was worth more than when he’d lent it. Year after exhausting year, farmers would go deeper and deeper into debt, until, at last, the banks foreclosed on their land. If they could afford the rent, farmers became tenants. If not, they would join millions of others as farm hands.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:24 AM
An intellectual history of Trump supporters.John B. Judis
In 1976, Donald Warren—a sociologist from Oakland University in Michigan who would die two decades later without ever attaining the rank of full professor—published a book called The Radical Center: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation. Few people have read or heard of it—I learned of it about 30 years ago from the late, very eccentric paleoconservative Samuel Francis—but it is, in my opinion, one of the three or four books that best explain American politics over the past half-century.
While conducting extensive surveys of white voters in 1971 and again in 1975, Warren identified a group who defied the usual partisan and ideological divisions. These voters were not college educated; their income fell somewhere in the middle or lower-middle range; and they primarily held skilled and semi-skilled blue-collar jobs or sales and clerical white-collar jobs. At the time, they made up about a quarter of the electorate. What distinguished them was their ideology: It was neither conventionally liberal nor conventionally conservative, but instead revolved around an intense conviction that the middle class was under siege from above and below.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:15 AM
The Ecomodernists launching their manifesto today propose solutions that are both ignorant and brutal.Beware of simple solutions to complex problems. That is a crucial lesson from history; a lesson that intelligent people in every age keep failing to learn.
Later today (Thursday), a group of people who call themselves Ecomodernists launch their manifesto in the UK. The media loves them, not least because some of what they say chimes with dominant political and economic narratives. So you will doubtless be hearing a lot about them.
Their treatises are worth reading. In some important respects they are either right or at least wrong in an interesting way. In other respects … well, I will come to that in a moment.
Posted by Dictynna at 8:07 AM
From Europe to the Pacific rim, capitalism marches on. Right over democracy. Guess what? People don't like it. You remember people? They're the ones, as Pope Francis suggested, the economy is supposed to serve, not rule:
Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Berlin on Saturday in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they say is anti-democratic and will lower food safety, labor and environmental standards.
Posted by Dictynna at 7:20 AM
The following is Chapter 10 of The WikiLeaks Files:
On August 31, 2013, US president Barack Obama announced that he intended to launch a military attack on Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack in that country that the US blamed on the Syrian government. Obama assured the US public that this would be a limited action solely intended to punish the Assad government for using chemical weapons; the goal of US military action would not be to overthrow the Assad government, nor to change the balance of forces in Syria's sectarian civil war.
History shows that public understanding of US foreign policy depends crucially on assessing the motivations of US officials. It is likely inevitable as a result that US officials will present themselves to the public as having more noble motivations than they share with each other in private, and therefore that if members of the public had access to the motivations shared in private, they might make different assessments of US policy. This is a key reason why WikiLeaks' publishing of US diplomatic cables was so important.
Posted by Dictynna at 7:11 AM
One thing we have become all too used to is that our reality can be manipulated to create the appearance of something else entirely. Invading another country is defensive, rigged elections are passed off as democracy in action, more guns (or more nuclear weapons) ensure the peace, trade and foreign investment increase jobs at home. Orwellian logic has become commonplace.
What I am reporting on here is another kind of manipulation: How Facebook and other social media use the information we for the most part unknowingly provide it—including even words we speak in the privacy of our own homes—to advertise products that we didn’t request and almost certainly don’t want, and pass data on to the government.
Posted by Dictynna at 7:06 AM
Arne Duncan’s surprise announcement to leave his post as secretary of education in December is making headlines and driving lots of commentary, but an important story lost in the media clutter happened three days before he gave notice.
On that day, Duncan rattled the education policy world with news of a controversial grant of $249 million ($157 million the first year) to the charter school industry. This announcement was controversial because, as The Washington Post reports, an audit by his department’s own inspector general found “that the agency has done a poor job of overseeing federal dollars sent to charter schools.”
Posted by Dictynna at 6:59 AM
Democrats always hate on free trade—before they enact it.By Bill Scher
While Hillary Clinton is probably lying about her newfound opposition to President Barack Obama’s trade deal, that doesn’t tell us much about her character. She is simply doing what every Democratic presidential nominee has done on trade for the past three decades: campaign one way, govern another.
Immediately after Clinton turned against the Trans-Pacific Partnership multinational trade agreement Wednesday, opponents and pundits pinned the flip-flop badge to her pantsuit lapel. A June review of her past 45 pro-TPP statements by CNN.com was quickly re-circulated on social media. But the most cutting reaction was the more-in-sadness-than-in-anger conclusion from Vox’s Ezra Klein that Clinton is being dishonest. “It’s hard to believe that Clinton really opposes the TPP deal,” he sighed. “As someone trying to understand Clinton’s likely governing philosophy, it’s unnerving.”
Posted by Dictynna at 6:49 AM
Whatsapp is just technology. It’s neither good nor bad. It just depends on how we use it.By Sadip Roy / New America Media
We are not a country of beggars and elephants and snakecharmers.
This is a new India of Whatsapp and smartphones and MyGov.in. That’s the Digital India Narendra Modi sold, to a starstruck Silicon Valley just the other day.
Mr Modi told an inspiring story about an India where farmers in Maharashtra are on a Whatsapp group to share agricultural tips and techniques.
Days later barbaric violence erupted in Dadri village, not too far from Delhi. A mob, apparently fired up by announcements of cow slaughter made at the local temple, barged into the house of the Muslim ironsmith, convinced that he had beef in his refrigerator. Soon the iron smith was dead, his son in hospital and #DadriLynching was the latest hashtag of shame on Twitter.
Posted by Dictynna at 6:27 AM
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Doubtless you have heard more than once the term "American Exceptionalism." It implies, in short, that we are somehow special, different, superior. We are the "city upon a hill" whose freedoms and accomplishments set us apart. Alexis de Tocqueville coined the phrase midway through the 19th century, and it has enjoyed constant deployment by politicians and pundits ever since, because it lights a warm bulb of self-satisfaction in many bellies ... and people feeling good about themselves are easier to convince. Salesmen thrived on this axiom before Babylon's bricks were laid.
For the sake of comparison, here's something exceptional: Médecins Sans Frontières. Founded in France, the organization is most commonly known in the US as Doctors Without Borders. Made up of more than 30,000 medical professionals, administrators and logistical experts, this organization provides vital health care in places mired in war and strife: Sudan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Afghanistan ... sadly, the list has included some 70 countries over the intervening years, and does not stop. Military personnel have a saying: "Run to the sound of the guns." Doctors Without Borders volunteers do exactly the same thing.
Posted by Dictynna at 5:35 PM
We must make fundamental choices now that will shape our future economy and climate.By Nicholas Stern / The MIT Press
We stand at a crossroads where, consciously or otherwise, we must make fundamental choices that will shape our future economy and climate. Over the next two decades we will see a remarkable coincidence of two vital transformations in world history. First, it is in this period that we will largely determine whether or not we have a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, usually defined as holding the increase in average global surface temperature to less than 2 ° C above nineteenth-century levels. The link between emissions of greenhouse gases and climate change should be well known. Our activities cause the emission of these gases (among which carbon dioxide is particularly important) which are not fully absorbed by the earth and which thus accumulate in the atmosphere, thereby raising concentrations of the gases. These concentrations prevent energy from escaping, resulting in global warming and climate change. We have a period-by-period “ ratchet effect ”of flows of emissions into concentrations in the atmosphere because carbon dioxide, in particular, is very long-lasting in the atmosphere.
Posted by Dictynna at 5:28 PM
The US meat industry scored a big victory this week when world leaders hammered out an agreement that would reduce trade barriers across the Pacific: from the United Sates, Canada, Mexico, Peru, and Chile on this side to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Singapore on the other.
President Barack Obama has made passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the TPP, the signature goal of his second term. Now it goes to Capitol Hill for approval—which it will likely get, given that back in June, Congress granted the president "fast track" authority to negotiate trade deals, meaning that it will be considered in up-down, simple-majority votes in both chambers, with no chance of amendment or filibuster.
Posted by Dictynna at 5:08 PM
Congress could easily eliminate the worst fiscal problem plaguing the Postal Service.By Zaid Jilani / AlterNet
The Washington Post recently published an article asking if the post office should “be sold to save it.” It begins with an explanation of what the author sees as an unsustainable postal service:
The U.S. Postal Service, which has been losing customers for almost a decade, is still struggling to right itself. Everyone understands its basic problem. The electronic age has pushed first-class mail into an unstoppable decline. To stay afloat, the post office needs to get its costs under control, by closing post offices, eliminating Saturday delivery, downsizing its workforce. To boost revenue, it could offer banking services and sell lots of stuff besides stamps.It goes on to advocate for privatizing the agency by selling off parts of it to bidders who could then operate it independently.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:33 PM
Does anyone remember the Cheney energy task force? Early in the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney released a report that was widely derided as a document written by and for Big Energy — because it was. The administration fought tooth and nail to keep the process by which the report was produced secret, but the list of people the task force met was eventually leaked, and it was exactly what you’d expect: a who’s who of energy industry executives, with environmental groups getting a chance to make their case only after the work was essentially done.
But here’s the thing: by the standards of today’s Republican Party, the Cheney report was enlightened, even left-leaning. One whole chapter was devoted to conservation, another to renewable energy. By contrast, recent speeches by Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — still the most likely Republican presidential nominees — barely address either topic. When it comes to energy policy, the G.O.P. has become fossilized. That is, it’s fossil fuels, and only fossil fuels, all the way.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:17 PM
Elizabeth Warren challenged a think tank over iffy, industry-backed research. There’s a lot more where that came from.By Helaine Olen
This week, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took her battle against the seemingly limitless power of the financial services industry to that shadowy place where business interests, politics, and academics mingle.
Washington is still in recovery mode.
The target of Warren’s ire was policy wonk and economist Robert Litan, a former Clinton administration official and—until earlier this week—something called a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:13 PM
A team of researchers at Wayne State University have discovered that mothers with high levels of lead in their blood not only affect the fetal cells of their unborn children, but also their grandchildren. Their study, Multigenerational epigenetic inheritance in humans: DNA methylation changes associated with maternal exposure to lead can be transmitted to the grandchildren, was published online this week in Scientific Reports.
It's a known fact that babies in the womb can be affected by low levels of lead exposure. If a pregnant woman is exposed to lead, the lead passes through the placenta into the baby's developing bones and other organs. Pregnant women with a past exposure to lead can also affect the unborn child's brain, causing developmental problems later in life. Previous research studies have suggested that exposure to heavy metal toxicants can influence a person's global DNA methylation profile.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:08 PM
The oil and gas advocacy group Western Energy Alliance (WEA) is waging a social media campaign that challenges people to not use fossil fuels for five days. To the group, the point of the Fossil Fuel Free Challenge is to show how impossible it would be to live without fossil fuels right now.
“Eliminate fossil fuels! We hear it all the time,” says the campaign’s website. “Sounds easy, right? Then pledge to live fossil fuel free for a week and see what it’s really like.” The site shows a yes button that agrees to the challenge and a no button that says “no, life’s pretty good with fossil fuels.” Clicking on the yes button brings up a new page.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:59 PM
Should we run our country for the benefit of We the People, or so that a few people can profit off of We the People? This is a question that is rising to the surface in a battle between those who want the United States Postal Service (USPS) maintained and expanded, and those who want it privatized.
There are some conservative ideologues who just can’t stand that the USPS demonstrates government doing its job of helping make our lives better. As with Social Security, they attack it relentlessly and endlessly.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:52 PM
Sometimes public debates focus on important social issues; at other times, debates distract from them. Disputes over whether the Federal Reserve System should raise interest rates illustrate that second sort. Yes, "serious people" take strong positions for or against interest rate hikes. They sharply question one another's motives to spice up what passes for mainstream media economic news. But it is not the debate we could and should have, not even close.
Both sides of that debate celebrate capitalism. They differ only on how best to have government serve the reproduction of capitalism: by leaving it alone, by intervening intensely or somewhere in between. These days they hassle over raising, lowering or leaving interest rates unchanged. The possibility that capitalism - rather than the Fed or interest rates - might be the problem troubles none of these folks. It does not occur to them. Nor is that surprising given the monotonous mantra of academic economics departments and the journalists and politicians trained by them. The orthodox economics professoriate treats capitalism as so wonderful and "optimal" (among their favorite words) that questioning it brings only the momentary scowl of a teacher/priest dismayed by a student's/acolyte's failure to grasp essential, universal, absolute truth.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:44 PM
New Book: Financial Markets “Contribute Little, If Anything, to the Betterment of Lives and the Efficiency of Business”By Pam Martens and Russ Martens
If you want to engage in a serious effort to reform Wall Street, buy two copies of economist and financial writer John Kay’s book coming out in the U.S. on Tuesday. Keep one copy of the book for yourself (share it with family and friends) and send the other copy to a member of the Senate Banking committee. That committee is highly likely to be looking at reforming Wall Street again in the near future, given the convulsions in equity, credit and commodity markets of late and an endless stream of ongoing charges of corruption against the mega banks.
This is in contrast to Jeb Bush’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, and Marco Rubio’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:33 PM
Sunday, October 11, 2015
On finances and the art of ignoring conflicts and contradictionsby Nomi Prins
The 2016 election campaign is certainly a billionaire’s playground when it comes to “establishment candidates” like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush who cater to mega-donors and use their money to try to rally party bases. The only genuine exception to the rule this time around has been Bernie Sanders, who has built a solid grassroots following and funding machine, while shunning what he calls “the billionaire class” that fuels the super PACs.
Donald Trump, like Ross Perot back in the 1992 and 1996 elections, has played quite a different trick on the money-saturated American political system. He has removed the billionaire as middleman between citizen plebeians and political elites, and created a true .00001% candidate, because he’s... well, a financial elite unto himself, however conveniently posed as the country’s straight-talking “everyman.”
The Obama administration is moving forward with a plan that could bring a sea change to how retirement advisors must treat their clients, while financial industry-allies in Congress engage in another round of push back.
The new rules for retirement advisors that the President and consumer advocates are pushing address a conflict of interest the White House estimates costs retirement savers $17 billion annually. The problem? Contrary to what many investors believe, the advisors who direct them to retirement funds are not always required to act in their clients' best interests.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:52 PM
I did not set out to be an economist. In college at the University of Chicago I never took a course in economics or went anywhere near its business school. My interest lay in music and the history of culture. When I left for New York City in 1961, it was to work in publishing along these lines. I had worked served as an assistant to Jerry Kaplan at the Free Press in Chicago, and thought of setting out on my own when the Hungarian literary critic George Lukacs assigned me the English-language rights to his writings. Then, in 1962 when Leon Trotsky’s widow, Natalia Sedova died, Max Shachtman, executor of her estate, assigned me the rights to Trotsky’s writings and archive. But I was unable to interest any house in backing their publication. My future turned out not to lie in publishing other peoples’ work.
My life already had changed abruptly in a single evening. My best friend from Chicago had urged that I look up Terence McCarthy, the father of one of his schoolmates. Terence was a former economist for General Electric and also the author of the “Forgash Plan.” Named for Florida Senator Morris Forgash, it proposed a World Bank for Economic Acceleration with an alternative policy to the existing World Bank – lending in domestic currency for land reform and greater self-sufficiency in food instead of plantation export crops.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:47 PM
BRIGHTON – Seven economists (including Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty, and me) have agreed to become economic advisers to Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the British Labour Party. I hope we will have a shared goal to help Labour shape an economic policy that is investment-led, inclusive, and sustainable. We will bring different ideas to the table, but these are my thoughts on the kind of progressive agenda the United Kingdom – and the rest of the world – now needs.
When the Labour Party lost the election last May, it received considerable criticism – even from its own frontbenchers – for failing to embrace the business community as “wealth creators.” But while businesses clearly create wealth, so do workers, public institutions, and civil-society organizations, which, through dynamic partnerships, drive long-term growth and productivity. Indeed, a progressive economic agenda must begin with the recognition that wealth creation is a collective process and that market outcomes are the product of how these various “wealth creators” interact.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:44 PM
This country’s terrible social safety net is making it impossible for working-class parents to keep up with their wealthier peers.By Michelle Chen
When people talk about “balancing work and family,” they’re usually talking more about the workplace than what’s going on at home. Now we’re starting to get data on what the workaday life looks like from a kid’s eye view, and it doesn’t look good.
When debating the issue of work-life balance, arguments over unlimited vacation and employment discrimination center around women’s barriers to opportunity—the perennial glass ceiling that Anne Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg rage at when lamenting not “having it all.” For working-class folks crushed by on-call schedules or poverty wages, it’s often hard to find any life outside work, let alone to balance work and family lives. But centering the conversation not on career ambition but the life course of a family helps put the false dichotomy of work vs. life in perspective.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:41 PM
Saturday, October 3, 2015
David Daleiden, the 26-year-old CEO of the Center for Medical Progress, doubled down on allegations that Planned Parenthood has broken federal laws at this year’s Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of social conservative politicians and leaders.
Repeating allegations that Planned Parenthood illegally “harvests” and “sells” fetal tissue and murders fetuses that are “born alive,” Daleiden offered a new unfounded charge: He said Planned Parenthood is committing these acts in Washington, D.C., the summit’s host.
“Planned Parenthood’s flagship location in the capital of our free country is one of the locations recently partnered with the biotech company StemExpress to harvest and sell baby body parts,” Daleiden said Friday evening, on stage at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C.
The American economy is once again dominated by monopolies. New rules are needed.By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet
Can American capitalism be saved from its most predatory, selfish instincts?
Could the U.S. economy spread its wealth—if the public and political class understood how today’s unprecedented domination by monopolistic corporations have undermined opportunity, wages and income, and public confidence in the future?
In other words, what would it take to reshape the marketplace so Americans do not feel they are endlessly emptying their pockets almost everytime they access health care, use bank or use credit cards, repay student loans or bills for necessities such as Internet access—which have been steadily ticking upward and outpacing income growth.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:40 PM
Documents released last month in the settlement of a lawsuit at the University of Kansas offer a revealing window into an underreported Koch brothers' strategy: targeted, politicized funding on college campuses.
Consider the details of the case:
When, in March, 2014, economist Art Hall testified before the Kansas state senate urging repeal of the state's renewable energy standard, he identified himself -- accurately -- as the executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas School of Business. As preferred by the university, Hall also noted that he did not speak for the school or the Kansas Board of Regents, claiming the views he expressed were "his alone."
But, as the documents recently released by the university show, Hall left out some pertinent information: The funding for the research on which his testimony was based came from a grant from a foundation controlled by Charles and David Koch; his academic center was founded and endowed by the Kochs; the foundation paid a portion of his salary, and Hall took the position as the Center's first executive director directly after having spent seven years working for a Koch subsidiary as an economist and lobbyist.
Posted by Dictynna at 4:32 PM
How America built its empire: The real history of American foreign policy that the media won’t tell you
Perry Anderson sits down with Salon to discuss the Cold War, Hiroshima, American exceptionalism, Iran and morePatrick L. Smith
The other day I wrote Perry Anderson, the subject of the following interview, to ask what he thought of the foreign policy debates, such as they are, among our presidential aspirants. Logical question: Anderson, a prominent scholar and intellectual for decades, has just published “American Foreign Policy and Its Thinkers,” a superbly lucid account of U.S policy’s historical roots and the people who shape policy in our time.
“Current candidates’ f/p talk leaves me speechless,” came Anderson’s terse reply.
Perfectly defensible. Most of what these people have to say—and I do not exclude the Democratic candidates—is nothing more than a decadent, late-exceptionalist rendering of a policy tradition that, as Anderson’s book reminds readers, once had a coherent rationale even as it has so often led to incoherent, irrational conduct abroad.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:56 PM
In honor of Pope Francis’ address to Congress, House Republicans are taking up their “Responsibly And Professionally Invigorating Development”, or RAPID, Act. (Democrats are calling it the “Regrettably Another Partisan Ideological Distraction.”)
With this bill Republicans are basically saying “This is our answer to you, Pope-guy.” The bill bans government from even considering whether a project will contribute to climate change: “A lead agency may not use the social cost of carbon in the environmental review or environmental decision making process.”
Posted by Dictynna at 3:21 PM
Alexis Tsipras and his party, Syriza, pulled off an unexpected and decisive victory in the Greek parliamentary elections on September 20. Together with his coalition allies Anel, Tsipras now has a workable majority in the Greek Parliament with which to push through the draconian measures of the latest bailout package. But the real victor was Germany and its eurozone allies, who have insisted all along that democracy can play no part in European Union governance.
Anti-euro parties did worse than expected in the elections. The biggest issue, the terms of the bailout, was a foregone conclusion, and Greeks stayed away from the polls in droves, leading to the lowest turnout in Greek history. Greece's creditors will sleep easier with Tsipras firmly in charge, but there are ominous signs on the horizon. And Germany's leaders may well find their victory to be hollow if it leads to a bigger economic crisis and stimulates the spread of nationalist sentiment across the continent.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:16 PM
Item: The C.E.O. of Volkswagen has resigned after revelations that his company committed fraud on an epic scale, installing software on its diesel cars that detected when their emissions were being tested, and produced deceptively low results.
Item: The former president of a peanut company has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for knowingly shipping tainted products that later killed nine people and sickened 700.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:10 PM
In 1996, as Representative of Ohio’s 12th District and Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Kasich co-sponsored legislation to limit the amount of time certain people could receive food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). People without dependent children and considered able-bodied were required to be employed at least half-time or enrolled in a job training program for a minimum of 20 hours a week – regardless of whether or not such employment opportunities existed.
Posted by Dictynna at 3:05 PM
SWe pay roughly twice as much for our drugs as the average for other wealthy countries.By Dean Baker
The United States stands out among wealthy countries in that we give drug companies patent monopolies on drugs that are essential for people’s health or lives and then allow them to charge whatever they want. Every other wealthy country has some system of price controls or negotiated prices where the government limits the extent to which drug companies can exploit the monopoly it has given them. The result is that we pay roughly twice as much for our drugs as the average for other wealthy countries. This additional cost is not associated with better care; we are just paying more for the same drugs.
This is not an issue about the free market. The free market doesn’t have patent monopolies. The monopoly power provided by a patent is a government policy to promote innovation. There are problems with patent monopolies in many areas, but nowhere is the issue worse than with prescription drugs.
Posted by Dictynna at 2:54 PM
More than a quarter of renters in the United States have to put half of their income toward paying rent. But that’s not the bad news. The bad news is that things are almost certainly going to get worse.
A new report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and Enterprise Community Partners Inc shows that in 2013, 11.2 million households who rented, or 26.5 percent of the total, were severely burdened, or their rent consumed more than half of their income. While that’s a slight dip from the record high of 11.3 million reached in 2011, it’s risen by nearly 60 percent, adding more than 3 million people, since 2000. About half of all renters are paying more than the recommended 30 percent of income toward rent.
Posted by Dictynna at 2:47 PM
Public Pension Fund Study: High Fee Strategies Like Private Equity Lose Billions Compared to Cheaper AlternativesPosted on September 24, 2015 by Yves Smith
The Maryland Policy Institute issued a report this summer on the impact of high fee strategies on public pension fund returns. The results are devastating as far as high-fee strategies, both alternative investments like hedge funds, infrastructure funds, and private equity are concerned, as well as active managers. Needless to say, followers of John Bogle would not be surprised, but a horde of pension consultants have apparently succeeded in persuading public pension fund staff and trustees that they can find someone with a hot hand who can deliver them sparking performance…if they are willing to ante up for it.*
I’ve embedded the short, tartly worded paper at the end of the post and urge you to read it in full. It shows the high cost of investing in high fee strategies:
The study also shows that a passive index that mimics the investment allocation of the typical state pension fund outperformed the peer group median by 1.62 percent per year over a five-year period. On an initial $50 billion pension fund, this difference over five years is equivalent to $6.8 billion in foregone income.
Posted by Dictynna at 2:42 PM
The Republican Party isn't even functioning as a real party anymore, says Chomsky.NOAM CHOMSKY: The role of concentrated power in shaping the ideological framework that dominates perception, interpretation, discussion, choice of action, all of that is too familiar to require much comment. Tonight I’d like to discuss a critically important example, but first a couple of words on one of the most perceptive analysts of this process, George Orwell.
Orwell is famous for his searching and sardonic critique of the way thought is controlled by force under totalitarian dystopia. But much less known is his discussion of how similar outcomes are achieved in free societies. He’s speaking, of course, of England. And he wrote that although the country is quite free, nevertheless unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. Gave a couple of examples, provided a few words of explanation, which were to the point. One particularly pertinent comment was his observation on a quality education in the best schools, where it is instilled into you that there are certain things that it simply wouldn’t do to say—or, we may add, even to think. One reason why not much attention is paid to this essay is that it wasn’t published. It was found decades later in his unpublished papers. It was intended as the introduction to his famous Animal Farm, bitter satire of Stalinist totalitarianism. Why it wasn’t published is apparently unknown, but I think perhaps you can speculate.
Posted by Dictynna at 2:22 PM
There are conspiracies! Some are secret and others overt. The most important of them usually have a public and a private aspect. Yet even those with plenty of data in the full light of day are secret in one sense: they are barely known by the general public and mostly ignored by those who are supposed to be telling us what is going on and what makes things happen: scholars, journalists, and pundits. Thus the obscurity of the Council on Foreign Relations. It may surface as a tagline for the wise men and women of NPR and PBS forums, but its workings and impact remain largely unexamined.
Wall Street’s Think Tank by historian Laurence Shoup is a much awaited sequel to Imperial Brain Trust (Shoup and William Minter, Monthly Review Press, 1977). This is how he describes the CFR:
The think tank of monopoly-finance capital, the Council on Foreign Relations, is the world’s most powerful private organization. The CFR is the ultimate networking, socializing, strategic-planning, and consensus-forming institution of the U.S. capitalist class. It is the central “high command” organization of the plutocracy that runs the country and much of the world. (p. 7)
Posted by Dictynna at 2:13 PM
These are educational professionals, and they need to be compensated like they are.By Michelle Chen
As the fall semester begins on the small-town campus of St Michael’s College in Vermont, Sharyn Layfield is entering the autumn of her educational career with the freshman writing seminar, The Examined Life. Lately, though, she’s been examining her own career with both mild pride and disappointment. With a degree in creative writing, she’s been working short-term teaching jobs since her 30s, often skirting poverty, never achieving the job security traditionally associated with academia. Now in her 60s, approaching retirement age modestly in a compact mobile home, she’s helping build one of Vermont’s few adjunct unions to help colleagues gain the respect on the job she has long been denied.
As an organizer with a newly formed SEIU local, she acknowledges she’s “too old to benefit from the improvements for many more years,” but she’s organizing because “others have lived as I have—hand-to-mouth—and I want that to change for them…. Our goal is to be respected, included, and paid for the work we do; it’s that simple.”
Posted by Dictynna at 2:06 PM
Julius Uwansc was in trouble with his mortgage after refinancing in 2009, just after the real estate bubble popped. Like millions of others, he found himself owing more on his house than it was worth.
The Nigerian-born father of four moved into his house on Richardson Road in Gwynn Oak, Maryland, in 2005. “We loved it because it has this big yard where the kids can play,” Uwansc says.
But soon after closing on the loan, Uwansc began having trouble making payments. He believed he had worked out a loan modification with Bank of America in 2011 after signing paperwork, but the bank disputed the terms Uwansc thought he had secured. When he didn’t pay the amount the bank said he owed, it claimed he was in default.
Posted by Dictynna at 1:38 PM
When global warming became clearly evident in the temperature recordUniversity of New South Wales
The indications of climate change are all around us today but now researchers have revealed for the first time when and where the first clear signs of global warming appeared in the temperature record and where those signals are likely to be clearly seen in extreme rainfall events in the near future.
The new research published in Environmental Research Letters gives an insight into the global impacts that have already been felt, even at this very early stage, and where those impacts are likely to intensify in the coming years.
Posted by Dictynna at 1:30 PM
Gaius Publius: They Knew – Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago
An explosive story reported by Inside Climate News, an award-winning climate organization, and Frontline, reveals that Exxon knew as early as 1977 that earth’s climate was being seriously disrupted, and would continue to be disrupted, by carbon dioxide emissions, and yet in the 1980s they pivoted to financing an aggressive climate denial effort anyway.
That denial effort continues to this day, financed through the American Petroleum Institute and fronted by actress Brooke Alexander (whom I’ve called “Lying Pantsuit Lady“).
Posted by Dictynna at 1:23 PM
Chomsky lays out aid the geopolitical and historical context for this important agreementBy Vijay Prashad / Frontlin
On September 2, the United States’ support for the Iran nuclear deal was secured. President Barack Obama’s team negotiated the deal along with other countries of the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Germany). The Republicans in the U.S. Congress had threatened to pass a resolution that would block Obama’s signature on such a deal. Obama had said he would veto any Bill that constrained his hand to sign that deal. He needed 34 Senators to back him in order to secure his veto. When Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland said she would support the President, the deal was safe.
Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., told me that Barbara Mikulski’s vote was “a big relief”. She said that the Iran deal was “a huge victory for diplomacy over the real threat of war with Iran”. Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi of the National Iranian American Council agreed. Obama, they said, “has proven to the U.S. that security is better achieved through diplomacy than through militarism”. Emad Kiyaei of the American Iranian Council told me just after Barbara Mikulski’s announcement: “There is no ‘better’ deal and the opposition has not introduced a viable alternative, except more coercive policies that to date have not slowed—rather accelerated—Iran’s nuclear programme.”
Posted by Dictynna at 1:14 PM
Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time leftist dissident, has won a stunning victory in the contest for leadership of Britain’s Labour Party. Political pundits say that this means doom for Labour’s electoral prospects; they could be right, although I’m not the only person wondering why commentators who completely failed to predict the Corbyn phenomenon have so much confidence in their analyses of what it means.
But I won’t try to get into that game. What I want to do instead is talk about one crucial piece of background to the Corbyn surge — the implosion of Labour’s moderates. On economic policy, in particular, the striking thing about the leadership contest was that every candidate other than Mr. Corbyn essentially supported the Conservative government’s austerity policies.
Posted by Dictynna at 1:00 PM